Recent news media has swarmed over the high costs of Texas’ raid on the FLDS Zion ranch, and on placing hundreds of children in foster homes. What are the real costs, however? Crunch the numbers, says Marci Hamilton.
Recently, I debated Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff on NPR about his office’s failure to vigorously prosecute polygamists in his state, where it is well-known that underage girls are being subjected to polygamous marriage and underage sex. While Attorney General Shurtleff had to agree to the facts of the harm, his defense was that it is too expensive to pursue polygamists on child abuse charges. The headlines blaring the facts of the financial accounting in Texas — as if it were shocking that protecting children and defending litigation would cost money — provide an echo of such reasoning.
Abuse victims repeat the cycle. FDLS mothers are “single” mothers, collecting welfare on every child they have. Victims likely will not be as productive as they otherwise could be. Boys are dumped on corners. Studies in Minnesota have attempted to tackle the question of costs, but in her FindLaw column today, Marci argues that they’re much higher than the cost of enforcement.
The status quo [of non-enforcement] is not just a moral outrage, but also an irrational economic situation. The costs to society of sexual abuse are enormous: Victims suffer from drug addiction; alcoholism; mental illness, often rising to the level of disability; suicide, and broken marriages, and as workers may be less productive than they could have been. The harm does not just extend to the victims, but also to their families, their future families, and eventually the entire economy.
In 2007, Minnesota estimated the state’s costs of sexual violence in 2005 at almost $8 billion, or $1,540/resident. According to the report, moreover, these are a “fraction of the true costs.” Child sexual abuse was a significant component of the study; the costs of child sex abuse were deemed to average $184,000/victim, exceeding the cost of adult rape, which averaged $139,000/victim. And those are just the immediate costs arising out of a self-contained event of abuse, not the long-term and astronomical costs generated by continuing effects. Suffice it to say that, when we fail to deter or stop sexual abuse, we pay. A lot.
Familial abuse (which includes abuse by family members and close family friends) is the largest category of childhood sexual abuse. Even self-contained groups, like the FLDS, impose costs on the rest of us. Girls are forced to start having babies as soon as they physically can. They are taken out of the minimal education provided, which means all of their resources are turned primarily toward one end – the production of numerous babies – and away from any other gifts or talents they might have. There is another cost arising from their large, polygamous families as well. Often, all but a man’s first wife find it necessary to apply for welfare to support their many children. (They apply as “single mothers.”) Whatever potential skills they might have contributed to society are snuffed out by their obligation to bear babies for the glory of their men in heaven, and like actual single mothers, they face substantial barriers to breaking free from the welfare cycle. There is also the cost imposed by the FLDS on the rest of us when they abandon boys on city streetcorners to keep the odds in favor of the men. Meanwhile, the group rests on the assumption that the government will pay for this lifestyle.
Thomas P. Doyle is a Dominican Priest with 5 separate Master’s degrees, and a tireless advocate for church abuse victims. His review of Justice Denied understandably stresses the his outrage with the underhanded ways that church officials have fought Statute of Limitations reform.
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The Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church” tells the scandalous story of the Catholic bishops’ expensive and often underhanded efforts to persuade lawmakers that proposed changes in the laws will not benefit children, are discriminatory and pose a threat of financial ruin for the Church. Professor Hamilton clearly shows that in spite of the fact that the bishops know these claims to be untrue, they nevertheless seek to impose their will and their agenda on all citizens. Her conclusions are well documented.